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2-08-04 - FAT's chillin' in the FAT BOOTH at the 2004 Tinley Park Fishing & Outdoor Show.
The FAT TRIBE walked away being honored with "Best of Show" rights, privileges and commendations - aka nice PLAQUE! In all fairness by the time Rich came around with that plaque, us there had pretty much trashed it with bits of fly tying materials and a spilled orange soda.
Matt & Eric from Route 37 Fly Fishing Co., LLC. This is a company you must check into. Did I mention they're a Midwestern company, right out of Grand Rapids, Michigan?! BTW, FAT now has one of their rods which YOU could try at his next Iowa Fly Fishin' School!
A small sampling of the three main lines from Route 37; I'm pretty sure I got this right. Nooksack above, Bowery Trout in the middle, and my personal favorite, the Winesap at the bottom.
Check out that sweet aluminum tube...the nicest part? IT's OPTIONAL :) Optional means you're not forced to buy an extra thing you may not need, which keeps YOUR PRICE DOWN!
From let to right; John Motroni, Tom Greenup & Drake Williams still standing after a long weekend show!

2-07/08-04 - A weekend of fishing-related non-fishing fun - The Tinley Park Fishing & Outdoor Show 2004.

Yeah, it's not a fishin' report, so what?! It's a bunch of links, info and opinions for the folks who coulnd't make it! As promised in last week's report, I didn't get to fish this weekend! Instead, I was helpin' FAT out at the FAT BOOTH (! Talk about a show to go to, well, maybe not if you're an AVID fly guy, but for the general fishin' population, absolutely! Granted, the show is all for charity! How can you not go?

Not too surprisingly, I didn't spend a lot of time viewing the show; the majority of my day was filled with fly tyin' at the FAT Booth and just general chattin' with folks about fly fishin. I'm warm & getting all stocked up for spring fishin' flies while my buddies are out there chasin' cold steel...hmm....hard to say who had the better weekend!

For you fly guys, here are some of the highlights. First, there was the kid's trout pond which was sponsored by the Cook County...if the trout in there were indicative of the size that Illinois is stocking in April, well, I just might have to renew my IL license and trout stamp afterall!

Then there was a bit of recognition for the FAT Tribe; So we're sitting in Fat's booth at the Tinley Park Fishing and Outdoor's Show on Sunday afternoon; the show's head hancho (Rich Komar), walks up to the booth and more-or-less says to FAT, "Rich, we uh, need to talk for a second..." Last I checked nothing good ever follows those words!

This time though, those words were followed by, "The ladies all got together and decided to select your booth as the 2004 Best in Show...congratulations." So congrats to my buddy Rich, especially considering he did the whole booth himself (well, Mom Fat did the booth skirt!).

Next on my list I have to bring up the ONLY Fly Rod Manufacturer at the show, and by far one of the best surprises so far in 2004; Route 37 Fly Fishing Company, LLC! They just got their start back in August of 2003 and already have received "Best Value" award from for their Nooksack line of fly rods.

Now you already know I've put you onto some great sources for custom rods, and I stand behind my recommendation that folks like Justin Pratt (Alaskan Rod Crafters) and Dave Dyer (Creekside Outfitters) as two of the best places to get a one-of-a-kind rod at an extremely affordable price. However, a custom rod isn't necessarily for everyone..i.e. the new fly fisher, or someone who only wants to own one rod.

As you know, there is a downside to everything, including a custom-built rod. Build it yourself and trust me, your first is going to suck. Have it built, and well, if you break it no matter how great the service is, it is often a "get in line" for repairs. The guy who can only afford one rod needs a different option.

And that's where the guys at Route 37 come in. First, I have to say I couldn't have met nicer guys; I didn't get nearly enough time as I would have liked to talk with Eric Lubbers & Matt Vriesenga; hopefully we'll get them out to Iowa sometime this summer for some Trout Fishin' and campfire feasting! This is one pair of guys, and their company, that I'd like to see around for a long time!

So here's my point of view...Route 37 is the type of company that's poised to make Orvis & St. Croix shake in their boots. While the rumors float around that the big boys are crackin' down on their "Lifetime Warranties" or flat out giving them up (I just checked, Orvis is now down to a 25 year warranty), that was the first point Matt brought up; the guy who puts out a couple hundred bucks on a rod should have a great guarantee behind it. Should something ever go wrong, that rod should be replaced FAST.

Now, as I've been told both Orvis and St. Croix get high marks for fast warranty / repair service...although occasionally you can run into the "big boy" buearocracy So another fly rod manufacturer with a "lifetime warranty" isn't going to send the big guys running while Route 37 is breathing down their necks.

It's the value. Bar-none, Matt & Eric filled me in on their entire development process. I laugh when I think how they mentioned they have tons of rods sitting around that they'll never use and never sell. Having built 5 rods so far myself just over this winter, from all my component shopping I've really learned a lot more about what goes into, or maybe rather what doesn't go into a big manufacturer's rods.

In the Route 37 rods, the component quality compared to the retail price on these rods is astonishing...these are FREAKIN' GREAT values compared to what you'll find from the better known guys. Lets put it this way, I'm eyeing the Winesap Series and adding up the components in a 7' rod....let's see...$35 in GUIDES alone...a $50 grip...a quality blank that'd sell for $75, wait that's already around $150 just in the components if I built it myself..and I don't give myself a lifetime warranty! Bottom line, I could look at a St. Croix AVID for about the same price...the components alone on the Winesap Series blow the St. Croix Avid out of the water. Don't even get me started on the Orvis comparison. Now I must admit, I haven't cast a Route 37 rod yet. In many respect I don't need to; I have some similar rods. I know that these are GOOD RODS that should cast great, ESPECIALLY their Trout rods, and especially for the Fly Angler who maybe is just graduating off that $50 Bass Pro Rod (which are pretty darn good to start).

Some of you may have also come across another "Value-Oriented" Fly Rod company in the last year...Temple Fork. NICE RODS too. I was impressed the first time I saw a Temple Fork. However, I challenge you to compare a Temple Fork TiCR with the Route 37 Winesap and come to your own conclusions! Temple Fork has a "Big Name" behind them; Route 37 has what may soon be TWO big names standing behind the absolute best value for your dollar when looking for that "nice commercial rod". Bottom line; Route 37 rods are custom-built quality minus the custom-built "customization", but with brand-name backing and excellent retail value.

OK, so now that I've honestly gushed a lot, I know, about Route 37, I cannot fail to draw your attention to Rich's buddies; Tom Greenup (Ashegon Lake Resort and Guide Service), John Motroni (Rod Cases & Flies by Motroni) and Drake Williams (Drake's Taxidermy & Guide Service). I was lucky enough to share dinner with these guys on Saturday; man I was the thinnest one there, and yet I swear they kept stackin' my plate full of pizza and my beer never went empty...without a doubt they were trying to help me outgrow my show nickname ("Littleman"). I am pretty sure that inadvertently I probably chowed down more than everyone (I think the cruelest joke was when the put the last of 8 deep-dish slices on my plate after emphatic refusals on my part)! We had a great evening of drinkin', eatin' & fish stories. I got to spend a little more time with the pack at their booths on Sunday.

Drake's taxidermy & replica work is great; not to mention he holds a few world records to boot. Tom's Ashegon Lake Resort, well, there may have been "nicer booths" at the show when you consider all the Northwood's folks who were there, but all it took was one look through the scrapbook and I have to say Ashegon looks like heaven to me (don't even get me started on the brookies they caught right from their dock)! I didn't get the opportunity to see John's rod cases, but the inventive fly patterns were sweet! Sometimes in a world of Orvis-Endorsed once-a-year fly fishing clients folks overlook the fact that it's the people who make the experience what it is, and these three guys are NOT going to let you down! I promise to all of you that I'll make the effort to take them up on their invite and fish up north this'd be one fantastic report! And of course, my invitation is always extended to them to join me on the river; hopefully I won't have to wait yet another year to hang with these guys again!

There was SO much more at the show that I haven't included. I gotta give a shout to Fuzzy Bear Charters, one of our Booth Neighbors this weekend. They spent the evening running downrigger video (SWEET), taping spoons (COOL) and at times entertaining the young FAT Tribe member who tagged along for the weekend; THANKS GUYS! Also to our other neighbor Jim; honestly Jim, I don't have a clue what your business's name just goes to show that when you're stuck in the booth you don't get nearly enough time to see and do everything you should have! And I can't forget to mention the guy who had some sweet Pike / Salmon jigflies...but darnit I didn't get a card or anything!

Of course, I can't write a report without talking some smack, right? So here it is; to all you Fly-Fishing Companies who ignore setting up shop at a show like this....

Next week, if we're lucky and the weather cooperates, I'll spend a day in Iowa and then make it back right on time for the ICE CLAVE!!!!


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